Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By Deal W. Hudson

3/30/2014 (11 months ago)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

The culture, it is clear to see, is still reeling from the bad taste of thirty years ago. The value of cultivating and encouraging good taste is no -mere- luxury.

It\'s inevitable that we seek the absolute in our most earnest and passionate endeavors. Being a people more invested in music and entertainment than in morality, it\'s no surprise that fans become fanatical. We often forget that one reason we need God is so our unavoidable, infinite desire for him isn\'t squandered foolishly or violently. Bad taste pollutes and diminishes our public life not simply because it promotes inferior art but because it promotes all the manners and morals that come in its train. Bad taste results in the enjoyment of vulgar TV and banal music, which leads to boring conversation, brutish manners, and obviously violent behavior.

Highlights

By Deal W. Hudson

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

3/30/2014 (11 months ago)

Published in U.S.

Keywords: taste, manners, habits, virtue, decorum, dignity, deportment, habits, respect, culture, literate, educated, Deal W. Hudson


WASHINGTON,DC (Catholic Online) - I have not looked at Chaucer's Canterbury Tales for years until I started reading Peter Ackyrod's new "retelling" in a sparkling prose which maintains the spirit and tone of the original Middle English verse.  As Chaucer's narrator describes his fellow pilgrims in the General Prologue, I was taken aback by two straight-forward assertions: individuals can be judged by their clothing and table manners. 

At table she had been well taught withal,
And never from her lips let morsels fall,
Nor dipped her fingers deep in sauce, but ate
With so much care the food upon her plate
That never driblet fell upon her breast.

(General Prologue 127-131)

I was brought up by my parents to believe manners and appearance were important, and telling. I've employed these criteria my entire adult life - but without saying too much about it out loud. Appearance and manners are no longer viewed as providing norms for judging a person's character.  In fact, to admit placing much importance on how people appear, carry themselves, conduct themselves in public, or at the dinner table is considered by most as snobbery. 

But I can't stop myself from doing it, largely because it has been proven as a reliable, though far from perfect, guide to what people will be like as you get to know them better. The few conversations I've engaged in on this subject have quickly moved to the question of taste.  To say something is "a matter of taste" supposedly consigns it to the realm of subjectivity where no norms or standards abide.

However, taste is a strong indicator of  identity and, in some cases, character: our preferences in the arts have always betrayed strong affinities for certain lifestyles and moral attitudes. We express these allegiances in our dress, our grooming, and our habits of play and recreation. (For example, I despise backwards baseball caps and gum-chewing.)

It's the way we create our identity through our appearance, our likes and dislikes, and what we value that makes taste as explosive an issue as religion and politics. Whoever it was who first said, De gustibus non est disputandum - there can be no disputes in matters of taste - has been proven wrong, once and for all.

The general silence on the value of taste, it seems to me, stems from an obvious cause. We earnestly discuss our "shared" values in an attempt to draw people together, to create a new consensus on the subject of morality. We can confidently espouse our belief in peace, justice, and love, knowing that only the most beastly among us would dare disagree. Such moral generalities guarantee a minimum of quarreling. Mention taste, however, and this happy unanimity begins to crumble.

Why? Because taste is always about a specific object, this movie or that piece of music. Propose the importance of good taste and people immediately cringe at the possibility that their taste will be found lacking. Questions about taste quickly turn toward the concrete in a way that justice and love do not (but should)! "What's wrong with Pulp Fiction? I liked it!"

The fact that disputes over taste quickly turn to particular films or novels is refreshing: For a moment we are actually freed from the airiness of the theoretical. We suddenly feel the weight of what values are actually for - to make judgments, based upon universal standards, about concrete things and actual practices.

Thus, the mere mention of taste actually raises the long-ignored substantive issues about the nature of value itself. We have grown used to ignoring its function as an external measure of actions and character. Taste forces us to face up to the deeper questions we want to avoid. Is this object I have just enjoyed, good for me, or bad?

It's ironic, isn't it, that taste raises the problem of objectivity in values while seeming to be the most subjective of judgments? In fact, it is commonly heard in the history of ethics that contemporary moral theory resembles aesthetics - moral values gradually are being re-duced to matters of "mere taste."

For years I argued lightheartedly with my students about the down-ward spiral of popular music. One day I realized: The argument wasn't about beauty - the quality of melody, harmony, rhythm, or lyrics - it was about the identity they felt through their musical preferences. As much as the aestheticians would like to limit the experience of art to pleasure alone, it's clear that the sociological-moral dimension can't be denied.

It's inevitable that we seek the absolute in our most earnest and passionate endeavors. Being a people more invested in music and entertainment than in morality, it's no surprise that fans become fanatical. We often forget that one reason we need God is so our unavoidable, infinite desire for him isn't squandered foolishly or violently.

Bad taste pollutes and diminishes our public life not simply because it promotes inferior art but because it promotes all the manners and morals that come in its train. Bad taste results in the enjoyment of vulgar TV and banal music, which leads to boring conversation, brutish manners, and obviously violent behavior.

The hegemony of bad taste is evident everywhere - it's the dominant form of the incivility that people are complaining about - the back-wards baseball caps, the cursing comedians, the murderous drivers, the tattoos and navel rings, the tell-all talk shows, starting every sentence with "like," our obsession with the dark side of celebrity lives, and so-called saggy pants.

Of course, the knee-jerk answer from parents whose kids are running around listening to rap music and emulating rappers' dress will be, "Well, I wore beads and long hair in the '60s and I got over it." My response is: "You may have gotten over it, but we all know people who are still using drugs with grey-haired friends while the children are asleep upstairs." The culture, it is clear to see, is still reeling from the bad taste of thirty years ago. The value of cultivating and encouraging good taste is no "mere" luxury.

Deal W. Hudson, Ph.D

-----
Deal W. Hudson is president of the Morley Institute of Church and Culture, Senior Editor and Movie Critic at Catholic Online, and former publisher and editor of Crisis Magazine.This column and subsequent contributions are an excerpt from a forthcoming book. Dr. Hudson's new radio show, Church and Culture, is heard on the Ave Maria Radio Network.

---


Pope Francis: end world hunger through 'Prayer and Action'


Copywriter 2015 - Distributed by THE NEWS CONSORTIUM

Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for March 2015
Universal:
Scientists: That those involved in scientific research may serve the well-being of the whole human person.
Evangelization: Contribution of women: That the unique contribution of women to the life of the Church may be recognized always.


Rosaries, Crosses, Prayer Cards and more... by Catholic Shopping .com


Comments


More U.S.

Bella's Gift: The Santorum Book that Keeps on Giving Watch

Image of The book, Bella's Gift, has shaken me. On more than one occasion, it has forced me to my knees in tears. That is because, in a candid, honest, profoundly spiritual way, this splendidly written book puts the reader in the presence of unconditional love. then, through its deep spiritual truths, it unleashes the dynamic power of amazing grace.

By Keith A Fournier

I was with Rick Santorum at the Awakening Conference in Orlando, Florida. Rick and Karen Santorum are personal friends. Their whole family is a source of inspiration to me. But most especially, that little Princess named Bella Santorum. She is the center, the ... continue reading


Play-doh Christianity and the Vanishing Cross

Image of Bell can have his happy-clappy, navel-centered religion and his wimpy god. He just can't call it Christianity, and he can't claim it's the Church.

By Jennifer Hartline

There is no Christianity without Christ, and no Christ without the cross. There was no need for the cross except for our Redemption, and no need for that except for our sin. To preach Christianity without preaching repentance from sin and taking up your cross is ... continue reading


McDonald's does the unthinkable - Big Mac Shop launches McFashion clothing line Watch

Image of

By Hannah Raissa Marfil (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Fast food conglomerate McDonald's had released its own fashion and lifestyle line, with the clothes full of Big Mac prints on them. The McFashion debuted on Tuesday in Sweden, in celebration of their most recent campaign, "I'm Lovin' It 24." Profit generated from the ... continue reading


Top Stories of the Week You Can't Miss Watch

Image of

By Abigail James (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

From a tragic airplane crash that killed 150 people to the blood of St. Januarius liquifying, this week in news has been quite a roller coaster. We saw nuns mob Pope Francis, a father lose seven of his eight children in a horrifying fire and the first announced ... continue reading


Majority of Latinos in United States speak English Watch

Image of  Latinos who only speak English are often ostracized by Latinos who only speak Spanish or are bilingual. Many Latinos, upon being hired for positions, are presumed to know and speak Spanish.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

While it would appear to some to be contrary, the majority of Latinos within the continental United States, 62 percent, speak English. A new analysis of the Pew Research Center's 2013 National Survey of Latinos has found that the current demographics will ... continue reading


The Christian Feast of the Annunciation is About More than Mary Watch

Image of The Annunciation: The angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the house of David, and the virgin's name was Mary. And coming to her, he said, Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you. (Luke 1:26,27)

By Deacon Keith Fournier

Walking along this Way of Yes, leads us into a dialogue, a conversation, a communion, a new Way of life, the Christian Way. By saying Yes, offering our own Fiat, we become consecrated and enlisted in the ongoing mission of the Lord Jesus Christ. Mary shows us that ... continue reading


Where's the most hate in the United States? A look into the top states with the highest amount of hate groups may shock you Watch

Image of There is hope. According to the center,

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

While California is typically known for laidback attitudes and acceptance of diversity - it comes as a shock to learn that the Golden State has the largest amount of "hate groups" across the United States. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - According to the ... continue reading


Fox News asks New York City's party district if they are proud to be an American: Watch their unbelievable responses (VIDEO) Watch

Image of

By Abigail James (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Fox News producer, Jesse Watters, took to the streets in the "party district" of New York City to sample the opinion a certain demographic has toward America. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - As a part of Watters' World and The O'Reilly Factor, Watters asks people ... continue reading


What would you do to get your childhood back? People spend big money to find their inner child in adult preschool Watch

Image of

By Hannah Raissa Marfil (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Preschool Mastermind is a preschool for the adults in Brooklyn; it started the first week of March and ends the last week. Students come in every week, trying to get in touch with the magical world they left behind as their childhood ended. However, this adult ... continue reading


'Meet the Animals' SeaWorld continues to fight negative publicity from 'Blackfish' with new campaign Watch

Image of SeaWorld comes back to negative reviews with the

By Hannah Raissa Marfil (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

SeaWorld Entertainment Inc. releases their new campaign, ahead of a book release by their former trainer John Hargrove. The company received a rapid decrease in audience attendance and revenue from negative responses after the release "Blackfish," a documentary ... continue reading


All U.S. News

Newsletters

Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Isaiah 50:4-7
4 Lord Yahweh has given me a disciple's tongue, for ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 22:8-9, 17-18, 19-20, 23-24
8 'He trusted himself to Yahweh, let Yahweh set him ... Read More

Gospel, Mark 15:1-39
1 First thing in the morning, the chief priests, ... Read More

Reading 2, Philippians 2:6-11
6 Who, being in the form of God, did not count ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for March 29th, 2015 Image

St. Berthold
March 29: Considered by some historians to be the founder of the Carmelite ... Read More

Inform, Inspire & Ignite Logo

Find Catholic Online on Facebook and get updates right in your live feed.

Become a fan of Catholic Online on Facebook


Follow Catholic Online on Twitter and get News and Product updates.

Follow us on Twitter